Caged Nightingale and Paper Crane


luther_icon.gif odessa_icon.gif

Scene Title Caged Nightingale and Paper Crane
Synopsis “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” - Maya Angelou
Date April 20, 2019

Plum Island SLC-Expressive Center

PISEC may not be what Luther Bellamy expected from a correctional facility. It looks almost more like a gated community more than a prison. Sure, there’s security to get through, but the grounds are green and the buildings bright and serene, if a little sterile feeling in places. The visitors’ center feels more like a cafeteria. There are no dividers with corded phones for facilitating communications, just a room with round tables and chairs and vending machines for drinks and snacks.

Odessa’s already seated at one table when the door buzzes and a guard escorts Luther inside the room. He stays near the door, but otherwise gives the man and woman free reign to meet together.

“Mister Bellamy…” Odessa is clearly guilt-ridden. Her tongue darts out to wet her lips, her eyes wide under furrowed brows. They have a lot to discuss.

As he's lead through the grounds of the center - because it really is not like any prison he's seen the inside of - Luther finds that he is uncomfortable. The federal facility is calm and orderly. As it should be, he tells himself as he follows the security into visitors center. What sort of correctional facility would be correcting anything by tossing inmates in to cells and throwing away the keys?

The buzzing of the entryway door refocuses the man from his extraneous thoughts, and Luther steps through, homing in on the seated woman. Luther lumbers over; his gait has the faintest hitches of old scars, injuries, age. But also simply a man who's always seemed to be aware of his size, but not always aware of what to do with it in the space he's given. He seats himself straight across the table from Odessa, a grey-eyed stare in silence meeting her initial greeting.

Until he speaks, finally with a blink that pokes a hole into the stony visage. "What should I call you now?" The question spoken aloud comes not as a growl, no measured malice hidden under a thin veneer of politeness. It sounds genuinely inquiring as he seeks footing and traction by toeing the ground. It's a step towards the mountain of topics between them.

“A lot of people call me bitch.” The reply is even, even though her expression doesn’t change. A bit of dark humor without scorn — except for what she directs inward. “Odessa’s fine. Price if that’s too personal.” She draws in a slow breath and leans forward to rest her arms on the table, one folded over the other.

“You’re not the last person I expected to see here, but I’ll admit you’re pretty low on the list.” Odessa smiles sadly. “I’m sorry I couldn’t let you apprehend me. I’m sorry I stayed under your nose for so long. But I couldn’t lose my mother.” Something constricts around her heart, the smile fades while the sadness intensifies. “That worked out well.”

Bitch seems to be one of the last things Luther would title the woman seated across from him at the present. The self-deprecating comment makes the man’s angled brow twitch inward as if to sense the internal scorn. “Luther and Odessa, then,” he replies in kind, an indicative of the underlying personal level of motivation for the visit and the mutual acceptance of titles.

It’d been little over a year since he’d been reminded of a most peculiar time in his life, of his mission accepted by a certain katana-wielding, time traveling Japanese man, and a picture of the woman now seated across from him. He studies her in the same way he had done before the mess of complications - the sort brought on by an article in the Times - had affected him; angled brows twitch together to bring a naturally stern appearance to his expression even at its neutral rest.

Her next words shift his expression, a stone cast into a pond or perhaps a pebble kicked off a summit. His disturbance is internal, but enough to shift him externally into a slow shrug. “I’m sorry I didn’t understand the circumstances better,” Luther says of both scenarios she refers to, the latter of which he focuses on. It’s the freshest of memories. “Sunspot,” he rumbles out with a slow acknowledging nod and a simple query placed on the table between them.

He had received redacted reports later as reading material during his physical recovery. But the questions circling in still form a hazy picture, a cloudy, stormy region of the mind that he likely will never fully recall. Instead, he posits a simple query to shine some light through it and to give opportunity to process it at some starting point.

“What happened?”

“We succeeded,” is the shortest possible version of the story of what happened at Sunspot. “But it cost… so much.” Odessa reckons Luther’s at least somewhat aware of that. He suffered for what happened there too. “The portal… My mother seemed to—” That blonde head shakes slowly, uncertain of how to explain what happened to Rianna Price. “I don’t know. She either went through it or joined with it. All I know is that she’s gone.

She may never fully understand that it all turned out exactly how it was always meant to. The paradox of Rianna Price was that she wasn’t that person at all. Not until that moment. Not until that loop was closed.

There are no tears spared for the retelling. Odessa seems to be out of those by now. Although it never does get easier. “I’m glad you’ve recovered.”

Luther looks like he ought to have a decent poker face, but Odessa can observe his underlying tension. The man sits a little straighter, blinks a few times, the corners of his mouth pull back and down as his lips thin to a pressed line. They had gone through this strange portal before, a year ago about.

Sera was ever a mystery still to Luther.

"The cost." He agrees implicitly, low timbre bearing a faint quivering of forced air through tightened cords. His adam's apple bobs. RayTech security had lost several good teammates that day. Luther's grey eyes angle to the woman's hands, and turn up again when she says she's glad for his recovery.

To that, Luther blinks once more in puzzlement. "But." His thought vocalizes, starting, stopping. "Why?" Why would she care, after all that had happened.

“Why?” Odessa repeats, looking as confused as he is for a moment. “Perhaps because I’m not the monster the Times painted me to be.” That’s spoken a little bitterly, but the vitriol isn’t for him. “I said I was sorry when we last met, and I meant it. I wasn’t… I just wanted a chance to start over. All I wanted was that quiet life. I wasn’t ready to give it up.” She wasn’t ready to face the possibility of hanging for her crimes.

“I needed more time to prove that I’m able to change.” She must have been able to prove that in some capacity, or she wouldn’t be here right now, talking with him. “You’re a good man, Mist- Luther. That’s why I’m glad you’re alright.”

His gaze unfocuses for the few ticks of recollection. Luther tightens his jaw with the invisible taste of guilt that her bitterness brings forth from across the table. “You got to admit, it was a good tactic,” he says after a pause, a glance down to her hands again before returning up to her face. “They chummed the waters pretty damn good.” And he admittedly had gotten caught in the frenzy of it.

The compliment resurrects his focus from the depths of those more bitter times, and he shifts in his seat as if suddenly, mentally sniffing at this track of questions he has. “Was there something that changed your mind? Back then, when you were with…” He trails, lifting his hand to scrub down stubbled jaw. Even now, he looks like he’s struggling with a past circumstance and an inner compromise. “You’ve pretty much proven that you’ve got a pattern of falling in with the wrong sorts. Or, falling into the wrong hands.”

Luther blinks slowly, studying her again with an anticipation of her possibly disappearing again - either from physical presence or even just mental engagement. “They’re saying you got work to do here. What’s going to make it any different now?” he asks, brows lifting in question.

“I can’t blame anyone for believing it.” There was a time, after all, when every terrible thing that was said about her personality and beliefs still held true. But time, life, has changed her. For the better, she hopes. “I… finally found people who showed me compassion. And I saw so much senseless suffering during the war. I didn’t want to be a part of it any longer.”

Odessa smiles ruefully at his question. “I don’t know what makes now different from all the other times I’ve been locked in a cage and given work to do. I can only hope the intentions here are… better. That what I can do is meaningful. Like the work I was doing at Raytech.”

She can see the nerve struck in him despite his efforts to avoid the hit. Senseless suffering. Luther's gaze drops down again from her face and he stares at a middle distance towards her jugular notch. Breath slowing, the man stills in his seat. Some time that feels like forever but is only seconds in reality passes and he startles up as if he'd heard a distant gunshot.

Luther blinks heavily and breathes deeply again, squaring his stare back on Odessa after. An air of accusation piles on, though he doesn't seem to find a basis for it. She's seen plenty of those looks before, especially during her trial.

"What do you mean, you can only hope the intentions here are better?"

Finally, his rumbles take a simmering turn. Luther plants a hand stiffly on the edge of the table. "You can't— this cage is one of your own making. You plead guilty to a whole lot of shit that landed you here. And sure they gave you a chance to work it off. But the work you do here, like you did at Raytech, it is your responsibility to know what effect it could have on others."

Luther tightens his jaw a moment, huffing out afterward. "Or you'd have everybody believe what your defense lawyer said? That you're emotionally immature, or irrevocably damaged in your moral compass somehow?" His other hand moves to join the other at the table's edge. "You're responsible, Odessa. You have to take control of what you do, who you're doing it for, and why."

For a moment, Odessa wonders if he’s considering reaching across the table and choking the life out of her for all that she’d done. Even though he doesn’t strike her as the type. When he startles, her eyes widen a fraction, shoulders back as she waits to see what happens following that little reverie.

“Every organization I worked for swore they were working to better the world. The ends justified the means, they said.” Odessa shakes her head. “I don’t… always know better.” What they said about her at the trial was true. Her moral compass is completely off because it was never put right to begin with. “But I’m trying.”

Because she can’t argue with him about what is or isn’t her responsibility. Even if she can only imagine what deep, dark hole she’ll be tossed into if she refuses to act in service to SESA, violating the terms of her sentencing, wouldn’t that be better than making the same mistakes over again?

Storm-grey gaze narrowing, Luther blinks a few times as he stares at the woman across from him. Were she a mind reader, she would know it's not only her face but a handful of others who make that confession, too.

I don't always know better. But I'm trying.

Including his own face speaking those words back at him. He blinks again, and it's Odessa's face once more. The stiffness of his posture recedes into his chair, melts away from his expression to something more… lost and purposeless.

"It gets better," he says after a long pause, a small shake of his head as if he'd felt a finger poke him, angled brows wrinkling up on his forehead. "Hard to imagine, I'm sure. But it does. As long as you're trying." That, at least, sounds positive if mildly rehearsed like he'd heard it spoken somewhere by someone else. But Luther believes it well enough.

"You get any other visitors?" It's a hard pivot, but a soft, non-interrogating inquiry. Actual concern accompanies it. He adds more wryly, "Or did you just blow your one-a-year on me?"

It gets better. “It would have to, right?” Odessa jokes at her own expense. “I’ve pretty much hit rock bottom here.” Her smile and humor are fleeting. She looks down at the table in front of her, her hands clasped on its surface.

“Mateo and Lynette.” Of course they were quick to visit. “Elisabeth came to see me. That one was a surprise. Not as much as you, but…” Odessa had thought for sure that Elisabeth would hate her once she’d learned about the things she’d done during the war. The side she’d fought with, if not precisely for.

She still finds it unfathomable that he’s come to check up on her. And that he also isn’t here to gloat in some fashion.

The first pair of names get a dip of understanding, an anticipated nod. Elisabeth's name gets a small quick quirk of his angled brow up, but then he otherwise resettles. Her surprise towards his visit, though, earns a slow blink. It brings to the surface of the man's expression a slight disturbance… one might muse something akin to guilt. Regret. It's forcibly pushed back down with a press of his mouth into a flat line, battling the frown at the corners.

"They got the kids back," he feels the need to mention to the woman despite not being entirely sure how much she knew of that situation. It just seems prudent to mention in the moment. "I mean… you were there, when…" When all of Sunspot happened. When he set the nearby area aflame. When.

Pivot. "If you're wondering why I came… Guess it's because I still got this mission." He produces his wallet again, and the familiar, worn paper crane and photograph of Odessa, likewise wrinkled and battered from a decade's worth of carrying. These two items he sets down on the table, much aware of their delicate nature yet testament to the resilience of both pieces.

"Don't think I'll ever see Hiro again," Luther states plainly. "So I won't get much answers there. But, I thought maybe…" He turns storm grey eyes up to the woman, almost asking for her permission to finish the thought.

The pivot is accepted gratefully and with a slow nod of her head. Understanding and affirming her question at the same time. Her brows knit together at the mention of a mission. The photograph and the paper crane - she recognizes the latter without question - only deepen the mystery of what he’s presenting to her.

Again, Odessa nods. Permission granted, and she fills in the gaps herself in what she hopes is the correct way. “You were there the day my father was murdered.” The day her mother gave up her life to see her child born. The thought makes her throat tight. “I tried to save them. They brought me back to rescue them, and I… I couldn’t. I wasn’t strong enough to stop him.”

Fat tears slide down Odessa’s face as she reaches out to take delicate hold of the paper crane between her thumb and forefinger. Because of her weakness, her parents died. Because of Luther’s strength, Odessa lived. She isn’t sure the exchange is a fair one.

He had taken the time and learned somewhere in the years passed to refold the square into its origami avian shape. The paper crane, a symbol of hope, healing, happiness. Inside it, he'd shown her before, the written message from Hiro back then that she had needed his help. That she will need his help. The message - interpreted as a mission - drawing him as if pulled on a string of fate to the present moment.

A string that entangles them still.

Luther's gaze dips briefly from Odessa to the crane then back up, tracing up the trail of her tears. "Hiro told me it was my… destiny," he says quietly after a long beat. "I didn't realize it 'til later what Samson Gray was doing—" He clips off when the blink of his eyes brings back the flash of the sight of the scene. Even in all the years since, he could not forget it.

A dry swallow later, Luther clears his throat. "I thought. Maybe." Once again the thought from earlier surfaces, tumbling through him and falling off awkwardly as he searches for what words to put to mind. "I thought you wouldn't want to see me after… But you did. So." He points to the crane in her hand. "If you still want my help, somehow, sometime. You can ask." The standing offer given, he lifts the same finger, pointing up as he adds, "But only after you're sure what you ask for isn't going to hurt anybody else." The finger tilts, pointing at her. "Including you."

Luther retracts his finger and hand back to his side. His conditions thus named, he resettles back to the stillness from before.

Odessa’s head dips down and her free hand raises to cover her mouth, the side of her forefinger pressed against the underside of her nose. Breathing comes as a gasp, a shudder of her shoulders accompanying a fresh wave of tears that she doesn’t attempt to wipe away.

“You did what you needed to do,” she asserts, as though doing what he did to allow her mother time to escape the house was enough. Is enough. And maybe it is. Maybe that’s all Hiro wanted. But Hiro Nakamura was a master of the long game. Even Odessa has her doubts that he didn’t expect Luther to provide more assistance to her somewhere down the road, the way the man himself suspects.

A slow breath helps to bring some calm and steadiness in the face of tumultuous grief. Odessa sets the paper crane back down and starts brushing her palms over her face to banish the tears and the rivers they’ve created down the landscape of her face.

Including you.

Odessa is barely able to care for herself in many respects. Keeping herself from harm is one way she’s often failed herself spectacularly. The point of his caveat is not lost on her. “Alright,” she says, voice still quavering from emotion. “I… Thank you. That’s a very generous offer, considering you don’t owe me anything.” She deals in transactions. Favors for favors. Selflessness isn’t a trait she’s seen much of in her life, though it’s one she’s trying to embody as much as she can, hoping it isn’t too little, too late.

Her acceptance - no, that’s not what it is. Her forgiveness. At least, that is how Luther interprets it, brings about a feeling of resolution, a coda to a decades long song. With a forward lean, he pushes back up to his feet. “When you decide what it is you need,” he says once he’s up, “get that bird back to me.” He nods to the paper crane on the table. How, where, why… when, will be up to Odessa.

He beckons the distant posted guard, and turns to head away to the area’s exit.

“Take care of yourself, Odessa. I’ll see you later.”

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